Friends

⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 2 reviews.

tl;dr: The sitcom of a decade. Has it aged? Yes. Are some parts a little problematic? Sure. But could it be any funnier? I mean probably, but it's still brilliant, funny as anything, and a great nostalgia trip that just about manages to hold up throughout the ridiculously long run.

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Could it be any more iconic! Having taken an almost ten-year break (I know, I'm old) we're starting from the pilot and going on a nostalgic binge through all ten seasons to test how well Friends has held up. Right from the off I should say I will be a little biased, as this is a show I used to watch almost every night for several years straight, but I am also going in against a backdrop of warnings about mild homophobia, transphobia and a generally less ethical brand of comedy.

I think it's fair that there has been a little controversy surrounding the 20-year-old show. Yes, there are moments where the cast are a little homophobic, though it's never overt, and one particularly "wow" moment where Phoebe, the traditionally liberal one, has a song lyric about bisexuals just "not being able to make up their mind", which is definitely bigoted in hindsight. That said, so far (with that one exception) pretty much everything shown has been comedy or character, not bigotry, and that's a clear distinction. Does Ross have a hard time around Susan and Carol? Yes, but is that homophobic or reactive to the facts of his situation. Is Chandler weird about his dad? Yes, but ditto. I'm not saying their reactions, comments, or jibes are morally right – far from it – but they are in-character and relevant to the plot. In that sense, I think you can forgive them.

In another sense, though, this is a 90s show with an openly gay lesbian couple raising a child and a transvestite father figure enjoying a successful career. Yes, it is woefully lacking in non-white characters – particularly in the first few seasons – and yes, it is insensitive at times, but taken within the context of when it was made I find it hard to conclude that the show was anything other than progressive and judging it otherwise feels unfair.

Societal criticisms aside, I had forgotten how bad the pilot was. It's not awful, but it isn't really that indicative of who these characters become. Similarly, the various friends all clearly take a season or two to settle into the people that make the show great, which means that the initial half a season or so can be a little weird at times. Pacing is also a bit all over the place and the camera work is often less than ideal, but these are minor niggles. Basically, it's clear that the show was an experiment and didn't have a huge budget, but even in this first season the writing is clever enough and the jokes funny enough that I can see why it caught on.

Personally, I'm having a fun nostalgia trip and still finding myself laughing my ass off, so I can't complain at all. Bring on the binge!

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Oh yes, it's going to be one of those months. There's little else to say about season two that I haven't already covered, though the show definitely has a more mature feel to it. The characters are better developed, the jokes are more targeted and, overall, it's just a lot more fun to watch. Plus, it's definitely the season where the plot gets a bit more interesting. I've enjoyed the switch around of the Ross/Rachel plot, with the early episodes doing a complete 180 and having Rachel pining for once, then later just showing their relationship continue to mature.

Those emotions and motifs are also nicely counteracted by the Monica and Richard arc, as well as Chandler's plotline with Janice, who is far more an integral character at this stage of the show than I remember. In fact, I feel that could be said of a lot of the supporting cast, from Gunther to the Geller/Green parents, episodes have a tendency to involve more people than just the core six friends, which is something I definitely don't remember and will be interested to see if it tails off in later seasons.

Still, overall it remains a brilliant comedy, a huge amount of fun and just great comfort TV that holds up perfectly. Let the binge continue!

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